Restaurant week presents operators with the opportunity to not only welcome new guests but also switch up menu offerings.
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Restaurant week presents operators with the opportunity to not only welcome new guests but also switch up menu offerings.

How to Make the Most of 'Restaurant Week' Events

With some forethought and planning, operators can maximize the benefits of restaurant week.

Restaurant week has become a community favorite in cities around the country. While consumers are lured by the promise of discounted meals at their favorite or trending restaurants, operators are enticed by the prospect of growing their customer databases and turning new customers into loyal regulars. A clear win-win, right? Not necessarily.

As with any decision, operators have to consider if it makes good business sense. A successful approach to restaurant week takes into account the pressures and challenges our industry is facing today, including labor and supply chain issues. If you can employ these strategies, restaurant week just might be a fulfilling option, for both you and your customers.


Ben Pryor

Optimize your menu or offerings

Before the big week, create a menu that is attractive to both customers and your bottom line. To rise above the noise of the many offerings customers will be considering from other restaurants, the menu should reflect what makes your restaurant unique. Your goal is to make an impression so strong that guests will come back the following week (when the menu is not discounted). This isn’t just an opportunity to attract new customers; it’s a chance to retain employees. Showcase your kitchen team’s talents and creativity by engaging them to contribute a dish to the menu. If they need a little incentive to get the creative juices flowing, make it into a contest.

But don’t forget your bottom line. When designing your menu, think of profitable and scalable offerings for larger-than-usual crowds. By knowing your restaurant’s food cost percentage and the plate cost of each dish, you can easily calculate the cost-benefit analysis.

The right tech tool for your restaurant will have all your costs and sales in one place and will be able to break it down by ingredient, too. It will also house your point-of-sale reporting data, so you can continue to evaluate if a high-cost discounted dish is selling well enough to justify the expense.

Offer digital ordering

Today, providing guests with various ways to experience your brand and food is crucial. That means branching out from the old dine-in-only restaurant week norms and offering a restaurant week takeout menu. And with the proper online ordering technology, you can seamlessly pace and fulfill to-go orders while continuing to serve a full dining room (opening up an additional revenue stream).

By using an integrated online-ordering system with pacing, your digital orders go straight to the POS and kitchen to keep things running smoothly by controlling the number of orders your restaurant takes in a given time frame and transparently communicating accurate pickup times to customers. You can even set up QR codes throughout waiting areas for seamless ordering if you’re expecting large in-person crowds.

Remember, not all online-ordering platforms are created equal. Third-party platforms can charge up to 30 percent commission per order and hoard valuable customer data. Transitioning to a direct online-ordering platform lets your customers know their order supports your business directly, not third-party platforms. When you own the entire customer experience with your food, hospitality, and team, you will avoid costly third-party fees and cultivate lasting relationships with your customers.

Utilize a loyalty program

A loyalty program allows you to increase profits by encouraging your customers to visit more often. Restaurant week is a great time to roll out or reinvigorate your loyalty program. It is also an opportunity to grow your customer list. Each digital order is a chance to capture guest information and keep in touch with them later. For guests dining in, you can promote an enrollment offer (something low cost like an appetizer or dessert) as an incentive for people to sign up for your loyalty program. The key takeaway here: You’ll be turning these otherwise one-time crowds into an opportunity to create long-term, loyal customers.

Own your marketing

As a small-business owner, you’re managing employees, finances, compliance, and many other pieces of the business. On top of this, you’re figuring out how to engage with the community and drive more business into your restaurant. Restaurant week presents an opportunity to reach audiences new and old.

By taking an omnichannel approach to marketing, you’ll meet your customers in all the places they will be. Use email, text, and social media marketing to let your current customer base know you’re participating in restaurant week and attract new customers by using any event hashtags. Rather than relying on event organizers to spread the word, be proactive and connect with the event organizer to ensure you’re on the list for any promotional opportunities, such as volunteering for media interviews, cooking demos, etc.

Embrace technology

You need to do more with less, especially during restaurant week when you’ll be serving more customers than usual. Technology is your friend; use it.

Tech like handheld POS devices allow you to turn tables faster, ensure order accuracy, and improve the speed of service. At SpotOn, our customers have found adding three handheld devices can lead to serving five-plus additional tables per day.

And it’s not just the tech in the front of house that can be a huge help. Kitchen display systems can help you streamline operations. These screens digitally route orders to the kitchen and then track them. So on a night when you’re expecting larger crowds, your staff can stay up to the minute, manage order queues, and even customize staff alerts.

While you’re embracing tech, don’t forget QR codes. Guests can scan a QR code at the table with their phones to place their order, add an appetizer, put in an extra drink, and then pay and tip as soon as they’re ready. A popular variation for full-service restaurants is printing QR codes on receipts so that guests can pay with their phones.

So is restaurant week worth it for your business? With the right tech, the right considerations, and the right attitude, absolutely.

With 25-plus years of culture-based hospitality leadership, Ben Pryor leads the development of SpotOn’s restaurant and hospitality product innovation strategy. As the head of innovation, Pryor drives the continuous evolution of SpotOn’s hospitality technology platform to address the rapidly changing needs of the industry. He is recognized for his unique perspective and ability to blend technology and people to deliver exceptional team member and customer experiences.

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